Evaluation in the policy cycle? It’s all about speed.

The 2016 European Data Forum EDF16 took place in lovely Eindhoven at the Evoluon. Much shaped like a flying saucer, this spectacular venue for two days gave home to Europe’s elite on data related topics. This years event was all focused on big data and data science. The importance of Big Data was stressed by TU Eindhoven president Jan Mengelers, CEO Eindhoven University of Technology. According to him, 50% of innovation in the future  will have to be attributed to data ecosystems. That’s an enormous amount of change.

We gave a presentation on the effects of Big Data Analytics on policy making in the 21st. century.

Since about 40 years for many researchers the policy cycle is the vehicle of choice to describe and rationalize public policy making. It’s steps remained largely invariant and comprise of Agenda Setting, Policy Discussion, Formation, Acceptance, Provision of Means, Implementation of Means. At times where the world didn’t turn as fast as it does today with change happening at unprecedented speed, this model was a good fit. However today the data landscape has tremendously changed. All sorts of devices produce data at every moment, be it RFID-chips, CCTV-cameras, the Internet-of-Anything or EAS’s Copernicus Satellites. Instead of storing all this data to process at a later time, action taking the moment data becomes available is the new credo. Government ICT-systems are not yet fully at speed to leverage the benefits chiefly because the organisational structures of the past did not favour collaboration and (data) sharing.

We took a closer look onto the possibilities of Big Data Analytics and published our findings as open access. The 10.000 meter summary of this paper would be that stream processing and real time analytics will change the policy cycle in an important aspect: Evaluation will become an integral part of every phase instead of a distinct phase at the very end of policy making. This will enable policy makers to react much quicker to change, adapt policies while they are implemented or re-focus to other, more burning topics in due time.

Our presentation at EDF16 focused on the interplay of speed and change in light of the capabilities Big Data Analytics will bring to government bodies – without neglecting the hurdles which will have to be taken to make this vision a reality:

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